Cervical Cancer Awareness

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and it is a great time to get yourself screened with a pap smear. I know, not the loveliest way to start off the new year, but a very important one. Cervical cancer is when the cells at the cervix (the opening of the uterus from the vagina) rapidly multiple and is usually caused by certain strains of the HPV virus which is an sexually transmitted infection. Usually HPV can go away on it’s own but in severe cases it can turn into cervical cancer. As many as 93% of cervical cancer cases could be avoided by screening and an HPV vaccination and with early detection, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is 92%. Of the 12,000 poeple who are diagnosed in a year, half of them never knew when they should get tested or that they could get screen for this form of cancer. To make matters worse, Latinx and Black vulva owners suffer disproportionally compared to their white counterparts due to institutional inequalities.

Symptoms

  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause.
  • Menstrual bleeding that is heavier and lasts longer than usual.
  • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor.
  • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.

Prevention

Prevention is not 100% foolproof in preventing any type of cancer, but reducing your risk has shown to be helpful even with early detection. Make sure you talk to your doctors about the HPV vaccine. Yes, they are started early (around the time an individual starts menstruating), but this is great practice for also discussing safer sex and starting your children with healthy habits such as regular screening, using protecting and talking with doctors about their concerns.

To schedule a screening, contact your OB/Gyn or Planned Plarenthood at plannedparenthood.org or 1-888-743-PLAN.

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